June 01, 2007
Posted by Gordon Smith

One of my goals this summer is to rationalize my information gathering systems. This is, in large part, a sorting problem. Particls, which went into public beta this week, claims to have a solution:

The web is just too big. No one has time to keep track of all the sites, conversations and interesting bits and pieces that interest them. We all have real work to do and lives to live!

So what if you could subscribe to the sites you like best and be notified when they change. Particls even works out how important the new information is to you and displays a proportional alert.

For example, general information can be displayed on a news ticker, important stuff might appear on a popup alert and urgent information could be SMS'd to your phone.

Think of it like a highly advanced widget or filtered feed reader.

It's hard to get a feel for this product from the descriptions. When I see the words "news ticker," I think PointCast. And that is not a good start. But I downloaded the product yesterday, and fiddled with it.

It has a long way to go, but it has some potential. In the short time I have used it, I see three big problems:

First, my reference to downloading should trigger some reaction. They need to put it on the internet so my customization is not tied to a single computer.

Second, much of the content is too old. It's a news ticker, for crying out loud. Why am I getting blog posts from five days ago?

Third, not surprisingly, when I enter keywords to reflect my interests, the results include lots of sites that I visit as a matter of course, including Conglomerate! The ticker doesn't help me much when it displays a post that I wrote last Monday. I need to be able to exclude certain sites from the results.

With regard to my last point, I don't want to use a service like this to read "the sites [I] like best." It is more efficient for me to visit those sites directly (in the case of newspapers, like the WSJ, NYT, or WaPo) or put them into Google Reader (in the case of my favorite blogs). I want Particls to retrieve information from sources I wouldn't normally visit. And I want the information fresh ... within hours, not days.

Is that too much to ask?

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